How many rounds are in the NHL playoffs?

How many rounds are in the NHL playoffs?

How many rounds are in the NHL playoffs?

The National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs are a thrilling and pivotal part of the hockey season, where the top teams compete for the prestigious Stanley Cup.

The playoff format is a crucial aspect of the NHL season, and it has evolved over the years to its current structure.

Evolution of the Playoff Format

The NHL playoff format has undergone several changes over the years, adapting to the league's expansion and other factors.

From the 1981–82 season to 1993–94, the playoffs were divisional, with the top four teams from each division qualifying. In 1993–94, the league shifted to a conference-based format, with eight teams from each conference qualifying for the playoffs.

The Current Playoff Structure

In the current NHL playoff format, 16 teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The format is primarily division-based, with wild cards also being considered.

The Basics

  • 16 teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  • The format is a set bracket that is largely division-based with wild cards.
  • The top three teams in each division make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs, while the remaining four spots are filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, regardless of division.

The First Round

  • The division winner with the best record in each conference is matched against the wild-card team with the lesser record, while the wild-card team with the better record plays the other division winner.
  • The teams finishing second and third in each division meet within the bracket headed by their respective division winners.

The Second Round

  • First-round winners within each bracket play one another to determine the four participants in the Conference Finals.

Conference Finals & Stanley Cup Final

  • In the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, home-ice advantage goes to the team that had the better regular-season record.

Temporary Formats

During the COVID-19 pandemic, special formats were used in 2020 and 2021. These temporary changes included a 24-team, conference-based format in 2020 and a realignment into four different divisions in 2021.

The Number of Rounds

The Stanley Cup playoffs consist of four rounds throughout the entire postseason — first round, second round, conference finals, and Stanley Cup Final.

First Round

  • In the first round, the top team in the conference plays the second wild-card team, the other division winner takes on the first wild-card team, and the No. 2 team from a division plays the No. 3 team from the same division.

Second Round

  • After the first round, the teams do not get reseeded in the second round. Rather, the series winner with the No. 2 and No. 3 teams for a division plays the victor of the series with their division winner playing the wild-card team.

Conference Finals & Stanley Cup Final

  • After the second round, the two teams remaining in each conference play in the conference finals. The champions from each conference then meet in the Stanley Cup Final to determine the season champion.

 

The NHL playoffs are a captivating and intense part of the hockey season. The playoff format has evolved over the years, adapting to the changing landscape of the league.

With four rounds of intense competition, the Stanley Cup playoffs are a must-watch for hockey enthusiasts worldwide.

The NHL playoffs consist of four rounds: the first round, second round, conference finals, and Stanley Cup Final. Each round is a best-of-seven series, adding to the excitement and unpredictability of the postseason. 


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